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Preparing Your Special Car for Winter Storage

Winter is right around the corner. Many of us put away our summer cars once the leaves have fallen from the trees.  Some of you park your cars while you take extended trips out of Vermont once the temperatures dip below freezing. If you store your vehicle for the winter, there are very important steps you need to take so it does not deteriorate while just sitting.

storing your car for the winterFirst off, never park your car outside and cover it up with a plastic tarp. The moisture under that tarp will cause a big rusty mess.  It is always better park your car in a dry garage, storage unit or barn. Please don’t just drive the car into the garage, turn off the ignition and walk away. There are very important steps you need to take so it does not deteriorate while just sitting.

  1. If you are storing it for the whole winter, prior to parking it, take it to your favorite auto repair shop for an oil change. Old oil becomes acidic and if left in the motor, contaminants and moisture will evaporate out of the oil creating condensation which causes corrosion inside the engine. 
  2. Clean your car inside and out. Having the interior of the car cleaned will prevent mold and mildew. You could also pick up some silica gel or some desiccants and place them on the floor of the vehicle. This absorbs moisture in the air and prevents mildew from growing and keeps leather from deteriorating. Once the inside is all clean, it’s time to clean the outside.  A good wash and wax is essential to protecting the paint through the winter. Make sure the car is completely dry before storage. Rust will begin to grow everywhere that water collects.
  3. Next step is to add a gasoline stabilizer to the gas tank before filling up the gas tank.
    The fuel stabilizing additive will prevent the gas from oxidizing and deteriorating. Make sure the tank is as full as possible to prevent undue air in the gas tank. This will save your fuel system from oxidation and will also displace any water that may currently be in the system that will result in condensation in the tank.
  4. Once your car has had an oil change and is clean and full of gasoline, you are now ready to position the car for storage. Start by parking the car on a plastic or vinyl drop sheet that extends two feet from any edge of the car. This prevents water vapors from rising from below the car. Place a piece of cardboard under the car to absorb any drips or moisture and change monthly.
  5. Next step is to deal with the battery:  Storing your car in an unheated unit can freeze and kill the battery.  If you are storing your vehicle in a heated garage the battery won’t freeze, but a newer vehicle's computers will keep drawing power during storage, and over time this will suck the life out of the battery. Also if the newer cars battery is disconnected or taken out of the vehicle for the winter it will lose all the settings in the computer.
    Here are our three preferred choices of properly dealing with the battery - depending on the year, make and model of your vehicle.  Ask your ASE Certified mechanic which choice would work best for your vehicle!
                1. Remove the battery completely and store it inside in a dry cool space.  Be sure to   allow plenty of ventilation to prevent hydrogen gas buildup.                               
                2. Have a Battery Disconnect Terminal installed on your battery. This is a great solution if you have an older vehicle and the storage unit is warm enough to keep the battery from freezing.
                3. Have a battery tender installed in your car. Then plug it into an electrical outlet to have a trickle charge protect your battery from freezing or drawing power.
  6. Make some minor adjustments: Bring the seats fully forward to put the least amount of compression on the springs. Close all the heater vents and make a ball of aluminum foil or get some steel wool to plug up the tail pipe(s). This will prevent small critters from making a home in your car.  Make sure you do NOT engage the parking brake.  

There are two different theories about how to best protect the tires from developing ‘flat spots’ from sitting.

  1. Put the vehicle up on jack stands under the axles and suspension. This ensures that the proper loading is maintained on the suspension. Make sure you don’t hang it up in the air on the frame with all of the suspension components dangling at full extension or you will put stress on the parts that they were not designed to tolerate.
  2. Over-inflate the tires to 40 psi and roll the car a little every two weeks. The air pressure will drop because of the cold temperature, so every time you roll the car, check the air pressure and add air if necessary.

You’re almost finished.
mice in a car

            * Create a system to deter mice. There are plug in devices that claim to work.
I go with ‘bounce’ dryer sheets; putting one in the trunk, one in the cab and one on top of the engine. Then I set a couple of traps and put them underneath the car.
Many folks claim that a hungry cat works best.  
            *Cover your car with a good quality breathable car cover to keep off the dust.
            * Don't forget to leave comprehensive insurance coverage on your vehicle to protect your investment.

Auto Craftsmen has a ‘Custom Fit Winter Car Storage Service’.  Our ASE Certified Auto Technicians will do a 44 pt check-over to make sure there are no surprises before you tuck away your baby for the next eight months.

  1. They will do an oil change, add fuel stabilizer, add extra air in the tires and give you any special instructions needed.
  2. We can also install a battery tender so you can keep your battery in the car, and just unplug it when you want to take it for a ride.

Whether you are parking your car for a month while you take a vacation, or are putting it away until spring arrives, if you take the time to properly store you car, it will last longer and cost you less money on upkeep for years to come.

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